The stabbings at Mililani High School on Monday happened at a campus that has a relatively low rate of both violent and disciplinary incidents. Always Investigating dug into the data for a statewide perspective.
The Mililani incident shows that safety issues can and do happen anywhere, while campuses with continually higher rates of violence continue to struggle.
Always Investigating worked for months to get school-by-school numbers from the Department of Education about both serious violence, as well as bullying and misconduct, for every public school campus.
According to the last complete school year’s data, there were nearly 4,000 “Class A” violence incidents statewide. These are things like assault, fighting, terroristic threatening and sexual offenses.
There were an average 15 Class A offenses reported per school for 2018-19, a range of none for many schools, and as high as 201 — the equivalent of more than 1 every school day. Mililani High School is below average for Class A’s with only 8 reported last school year.
There were more than 3,100 “Class B” incidents statewide for 2018-19, things like bullying, cyberbullying, disorderly conduct and hazing. There were an average of 12 per campus, and a range of none to 161. Mililani High School reported just two of those last school year.
Nonetheless, lawmakers still have questions for the DOE.
“We will be looking at this incident closely and talking with the principal, parents and Department of Education staff to see if there is anything that could have been done to prevent this attack or incidents like this in the future,” Rep. Justin Woodson, the chairman of the state House Education Committee, told KHON2.
Taking statewide Class A and B offense numbers together, the campuses with the highest counts in 2018-19 were mostly middle schools, and Waianae Intermediate School had the highest count: 293 in just one school year, followed by Waipahu Intermediate (247), Campbell High School (235), Kalama Intermediate (198), and Keaau Middle (181).
“It definitely makes me so sad and makes me realize it’s a difficult learning environment for students and teachers alike,” said Sen. Maile Shimabukuro, who represents the Waianae area in the state Senate. “We definitely need to do everything we can as a state to put more resources to Waianae Intermediate School.”
It’s a trend moving in the wrong direction at Waianae Intermediate. A look back at Always Investigating’s 2015 school safety report shows the campus experienced a nearly 30% jump in Class A incidents in the most recent school year (201) compared to 4 years ago (156).
Shimabukuro says she hopes things like the new higher teacher pay in this and other hard-to-staff regions, and more onsite resources such as truancy court, a mental and physical health clinic, even schoolwide air conditioning will make a difference in temperament.
“I hope we’re going to start to see this reverse,” Shimabukuro said, “and just know that the community really is trying to come together to address the problems that are happening at the school.”
Whether schools are at the high, middle or low range of the incident count though, one need remains constant for students across Hawaii: “Making sure they have easy access to mental health care as well as education about how to handle conflict peacefully, how to deal with difficult emotions,” Shimabukuro said.
We’ll continue to follow up with the Department of Education and lawmakers on what they’re doing to curb everything from serious violence to bullying statewide. And we’ll watch the numbers for signs of progress.